The second syllabus was a lot easier to create. The first took some time as I had too many ideas. But then I realized I am teaching multiple classes, so I can spread this out. You can read the first syllabus here if you like. Thank you to those who emailed me with suggestions as to how best to teach those works. I hope you do so again (especially with the Coleridge!)
This is my reading list for the second class. This time I actually included links where to find the books. Even though I plan on ordering them through the bookstore on campus, there are currently some paperwork issues that hopefully get resolved in the next month. The links are really for my own reference, so feel free to ignore them.
Beyond Good and Evil by Fredrich Nietzsche
Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
Orpheus and Eurydice by Gregory Orr
I want to start with the Nietzsche since it pretty much sets the tone for the remaining works, and understanding his points will help to decipher the overarching theme I am building.
As I go into Rime of the Ancient Mariner I want to analyze the almost neurotic obsession the mariner has with repentance. Despite his seemingly pathological urge to retell his story doing so does not give him reprieve. Arguably he relives it each time he tells it, making matters worse. What are the forces driving his obsession?
After the Mariner learns his lesson on morality, I want to explore Faust, evincing that that the dichotomy between good and bad isn’t actually very clear at all. There is more to life than a pure delineation of what should be done, and even though we are told to believe there are consequences in transgression, and there may well be, even said consequences and outcomes aren’t immediately identifiable as will be gleaned from the ending of the work.
The supernatural aspect which mystifies all humans is apparent in all of these works, and the underlying theme is its tie to power. In Prometheus Unbound this power takes on yet another form, nature. Much like the Mariner seemingly conquers the albatross, and Faust yearns for supernatural knowledge, Prometheus attempts to harness nature.
While the Mariner’s act of killing the albatross is almost pathetic, Faust magnificently, albeit unnaturally, obtains a series of desires, and Prometheus perfects the process as he further strives to harness natural power, but simultaneously selfishly and altruistically, and thus lending him the most success. Being selfish in itself is not bad, which is a fixed way of interpreting everything. I want to explore the different shades of overreaching, of wanting more, and how they can be read differently than in basic polarized terms.
What all this boils down to is personal motivation as each character seeks that which he feels will render the most satisfaction, whether it be repentance, knowledge, or power. Camus, in the Myth of Sisyphus, grapples with the opposite question: what if life is meaningless? What if there is nothing else? Wanting what you can’t have simply leads to constant disappointment, so why want? Well, Sisyphus didn’t jump off the mountain, he just kept rolling his rock. Life is what you make of it.
I want to end the term with Orpheus and Eurydice, but looking at it from a different perspective than the work I have done with it thus far. I want to look at Eurydice in terms of personal growth. While this work keeps in line with the supernatural theme I seem to have inadvertently developed, that will not be the focus here. Despite her surroundings, I will focus on her quest for more in traditional sense. I also want to look at the difference between static and dynamic characters. How does Eurydice betray such an analysis? How is she dynamic in a circular sense, and how does the idea of repetition through time change her in increments?
I feel like I should add something else. Like there is a work missing.
As for the papers, I am a little more sure this time about what I want to do. A short 3-4 page paper on Nietzsche. A 5-6 page paper on either Faust and Nietzsche, or Faust and Prometheus. A 7-8 page research paper on any other work that they haven’t written on already.
Now I just need to work out the calendar piece of things. I am trying not to front load or back load too much, but I also don’t want to crush them during midterms week. Thankfully, unlike the previous course this is a Wednesday night class, so I don’t have to worry too much about holidays messing up my schedule. For the Monday night class I realized, after having devised the calendar, that I will be missing several weeks due to holidays.
I will get it right one of these times.